Abidjan capitals the Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and is a great city. But please also note that Yamoussoukro is the political capital. It is well designed, diverse and for sure up and coming. Like many cities from my backpacking journeys, it is crying to be found. It screams but you won’t hear it until bloggers and tourists like myself and Ramblin Randy give you the gossip on it. If it has our approval, it can surely have yours.
Ivory Coast is modernising and it’s not money from Didier Drogba or Yaya Toure that is pumping it up. You see, Morocco and Ivory Coast have a good bond at present and a lot of investment has come from the Moroccans which will also see a huge national football stadium built here in Abidjan. The country also has a handy e-Visa system now, which I have explained how to get.
This city, Abidjan houses 4.3 million people (in a country of a whopping 24 million) and has been the capital since 1933. I loved my time in Abidjan and have to say a huge thanks to Dayo Williams, my tour guide. A fantastic man, a true gentleman, excellent tour person and very easy going and talkative. I must have asked him over 100 questions and he answered them all. I already had a short list of key sights I wanted to backpack when touring Abidjan, the capital city. I also visited the seaside town of Grand Bassam, itself a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site.
However Dayo knows his stuff and added a few more sights, in fact we managed to visit a whopping 3 football stadiums, getting inside two of them! Watching some football was one of my key targets here and it was easy to find – on almost every corner of every suburban street!
For those who have followed my adventures on Travelling Northern Ireland Flag the last few years, you will know I have visited well over 100 national football stadiums. This was no exception but of course there are many other things to check out in the capital. Here are just my personal picks, Dayo can also tailor your tour to your needs, with Randy he took him to a radio station! Thanks to my friend Randy Williams for helping out on this trip. I stayed in the Ibis Abidjan Plateau Hotel. Here are my personal top 12 sights.
1.Grande Marche (Big Market)
The market is stunning. One thing is for sure – Ivory Coast has A LOT of food, and I mean a lot. The sheer amount of vegetables, fruit, spices, meat and fish here shocked me. I’d say it’s in one of the 5 largest markets for food I have ever seen in my life.
The amount of peppers and onions was crazy. The people work hard here. I toured the entire market with Dayo my guide. He introduced me to a lot of the different parts to the food culture here and also it probably helped me not getting asked by everyone if I wanted to buy something.
I wasn’t really here to do shopping and I rarely shop in markets on my travels anyway. But you need to check it out and get lost in it. Ask permission to the ladies before taking photos. I say ladies, as 95% of the vendors and workers were female. It’s a great experience, and make sure you head to the Grande Marche – the main one. The smaller ones are good too but this place is where the real vibrancy of pure Abidjan hits you on every step.
2.Assemble Nationale (National Assembly)
I always love to see a government building when I backpack a city. So I headed to the National Assembly. Here, again incredibly friendly. The guards spoke to us although we couldn’t go in. What is interesting for me is that the Ivory Coast national flag is orange, white and green. This is the exact opposite of the Republic of Ireland flag.
However Republic of Ireland residents personally class their flag as being green, white and gold. Down the years the two flags were often mixed up and turned the wrong way round. I remember at the 2014 World Cup partying with Ivory Coast lads and getting a photo with their flag and my Northern Ireland flag together. The below photo taken in Fortaleza, Brazil.
This time I had my Northern Ireland flag as usual and got a photo taken outside the National Assembly.
3.St. Paul’s Cathedral
West Africa is very mixed when it comes to religion, however the main two religions are generally Muslim and Christian. It was similar in Senegal and the Gambia, where I also saw Mosques and Churches. Here in the Ivory Coast, I saw quite a few churches. St. Paul’s Cathedral is the largest, most prominent and most artistic church in the city. There was a huge event on the day I was there.
This smaller Catholic church was near the market and I went in to pray. Catholic and Muslim are the two main religions here.
The main Mosque that we went to was also one of the most modern Mosques I have ever seen. There was a prayer on during my visit.
6.Local Neighbourhood of Campement
It was important for me to see how the local people live in this city, and of course everywhere I go. To get to the heart of Ivorian culture we head to the famous neighbourhood, Quartier Grand Campement. Here we watch kids play football, see some dancing, another Mosque and a city beach. Also in Campement Dayo and I visit one of his friends who has some Ivorian home made gin. It is very very strong!!!
It wasn’t an overcrowded neighbourhood and everyone seemed happy. I was of course the only white person and tourist I saw here. The local shops were selling all sorts of things and there was also a bar here, but the strong gin was enough for me!
7.National Football Stadium
Believe it or not, the national football stadium is directly opposite the National Assembly. I had struggled to remember another country like that on my journeys. Nagorno Karabakh’s in Stepanakert was fairly close. At the time of my visit there was no match on and in fact the stadium was closed for redevelopment sadly, but we visited two other stadiums and also watched some Athletics. At the National Stadium, there is a memorial plaque dedicated to a similar disaster to Sheffield’s Hillsborough where people perished in a crush as recently as 2009.
Because the National Stadium was under renovation, Dayo drove us to another stadium. This was a smaller one but I knew when we arrived that we could get inside this one.
9.Stade Robert Champroux
As the first stadium was closed and the second one was open but with no match on, we headed to a third football stadium, Stade Robert Champroux. Here there was no match on, but Athletics!
Wildlife in a city only intrigues me when the animals or reptiles are unique. I saw an orange and black lizard at the National Assembly. Abdul and Dayo were laughing at me because of this, but for me it was a cool lizard. They see them everyday so it was nothing new to them.
This building is an odd looking one as we drive through the city centre. It was designed by an Italian architect and is called The Pyramid.
12.Local Bar for Beers – Resto Cave Le Krislay
Dayo and I headed for a beer, or two. I tried the two ,main local beers – Ivoire and Bock. Both ice cold and refreshingly delicious. What was weird was that this bar – Resto Cave Le Krislay (in Marcory district of Abidjan) showed rugby!! So I had seen rugby, athletics and football now.
Ivory Coast was another stunnigator on a trip where I almost landed in Ghana without meaning to and I can’t wait to get back to Africa again. It shouldn’t be too long. I’ll leave a few more photos of Abidjan here and cover my hotel, visa and trip to the incredible town of Grand Bassam separately.
“Before you take my heart, reconsider” – Texas.
My huge thanks to the Ibis Hotel Plateau, my tour guide and new friend Dayo Williams and my driver Abdul for a great time. Here are the contact details for Dayo Williams, a top man, a great guide and a cool new friend of mine. Dayo can also help you organise a tour to Nigeria!
Get in touch with Dayo please and tell him you saw him on my site!
Dayo Williams – Dayo African Tours:
00225 Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire
Here are some of my videos from my time in Ivory Coast: